THONGA TRAIL - CLASSIC
Bring the gees! 55km of unique trails through the Kosi lake system, down the beaches, up through the coastal forest before a sea safari takes you to coral reefs and crystal waters to drop you back at Sodwana Bay. This trail is for those who enjoy trails, adventure, exploring pristine natural areas & exploring. We hike around 15km each day.
We have bent over backwards to try and bring you a cost effective, value added package that includes the transfer from Sodwana Bay to Kosi Bay, all local guides, 4 nights accommodation, all meals prepared locally and overseen by our chef with Michelin restaurant experience, dive mask & snorkel, 2 nights of turtle walks (in season) and all your booze & drinks included.
DAY 1: SODWANA BAY - KOSI BAY
DISTANCE: 3km / 6km
We meet at Sodwana Bay around lunch time where you will leave your car safely parked on a private property. From there we transfer you the 100km up the R22 to just short of the Mozambican border to where the trail begins.
The first afternoon we take you down to stretch the legs on a short 3km hike to the Kosi mouth, en route we stop at a view point where you can see all the way to the second nights stop at Bhanga Nek across the Kosi lake system. The Kosi estuary fish traps are unique to this area in that the local people have used these passive capture fish traps for hundreds of years, each fish trap/ kraal being handed down within the family for generations. One of our local guides will be present to explain how the hydraulics and lake system works. There is also the option to snorkel the “Aquarium” at the mouth to look for money cowries & the highly camouflaged stonefish in the shallows if you’re feeling adventurous!
We welcome you with sundowner drinks and a general briefing about the coming days.
The first evening is spent in the warm company of Amangwane camp sitting a top of the hill behind the lakes, it's owned by Elmon Mkhonto whom Andy has know for over 35 years. You will feel right at home in this rustic camp with warm campfires and comfortable en-suite accommodation for two, because we are so close to the Mozambican border we feel that the evenings fare should honour our northern neighbours!
DAY 2: KOSI BAY - BHANGA NEK
DISTANCE: 5KM / 10KM / 15KM
We wake nice and early and after a light breakfast of tea, coffee, fruit, yogurt & cereal you take a packed lunch along with you as you begin the trail south walking through the indigenous forest that winds its way along the Western estuary bank. We cross the channel at Kalu waterway, it's usually about knee to waist high depending on the tides, but only a short distance across. Here we walk along the banks past the fish traps and mangroves, piscivorous birds abound, hippos & flamingos look on from the water.
It's at the 1st lake that we need to cross to the eastern bank. This is a longer water crossing but not very deep, again usually just over knee high. The trail heads up to the East of eNkovukeni, the mighty dune which keeps the Indian Ocean apart from Nhlange, also known as 3rd lake. The views over the lake system are stunning from up here, this section will make the legs burn a bit before we drop down back into the cover and thick bush as we walk up the lake shore for the final 5km keeping an eye out for Banded Mongoose, Samango Monkeys, Red Duiker and a variety of bird life.
There is the boat option - we recommend this in Summer, but it is available all year around, particularly because the heat and the trail up to the top of the dune can be challenging as well as to save your energy for the evenings turtle walk.
A boat will collect you after the 5km walk up the estuary to the banks of 1st lake. We then cross lake 1 & 2 before winding through the narrows to lake 3. En route we can snorkel in a secluded bay, have a swim & make our way through the picturesque channels to 3rd & largest lake, Nhlange. You have the option here of either walking the final 5km leg, the Nhlange lake shore to Bhanga Nek, the evenings rest camp. Alternatively if you choose to rather explore the Jurassic Raffia groves we need to go all the way to the dark waters of 4th lake, Amanzimnyama. The unique forest contains huge palms, considered the largest palms in the world & this particular species of raffia palm occurs only between Kosi Bay and 40 km north of Maputo, growing as high as 16 metres with the longest compound pinnate leaves (some are 25 metres in length) in the plant kingdom.
The boat will drop you at the shore 1km from the Bhanga Nek Kwa-Dapha Community Tented Camp nestled in the coastal bush a stones throw away from the beach. This is one of the most unique campsites in SA and in turtle central, right on the edge of the beach. There is no electricity but we will prepare a fine meal for you, hot showers are provided in clean ablution facilities. Accommodation is in shared tented bungalows.
In Summer, the turtle guides will then take you on an unforgettable 3.5 hour walk starting at dusk along the beach to look for prehistoric Leatherback & Loggerhead Turtles. The females make their way onto the beaches here to lay their eggs in the Summer months and the hatchlings start to appear from January to April.
DAY 3: BHANGA NEK - BLACK ROCK
DISTANCE: 15 KM
We start nice and early to beat the heat in the turtle season (the eggs use the same heat from the sun to incubate the eggs under the sand). This is arguably the most pristine stretch of coastline in the whole country, completely undeveloped and untouched.
We move through a series of bays, sculpted out by the prevailing NE winds passing Rabbit Rock, Castle Rock, Dog Point then reaching Black Rock 15km down the beach. Here a delicious informal lunch awaits you and the afternoon is yours to relax or explore the turquoise waters. You can swim, snorkel or go onto the top of Black Rock view point and look for Humpback Whales, Green and Hawksbill turtles feeding off the ledges or maybe catch the Bottlenose dolphins cruising past for a casual surf in the backline. This stretch of coastline has a high abundance of Palm Nut vultures and they are often spotted flying the beaches here.
We will spend some time looking for the Bouton’s Snake eyed Skink, it's a small lizard that has a local South African population endemic only to Black Rock. The small skink occurs further north but this is the southernmost limit of its range and the population is thought to consist of around 58 individuals which feed exclusively in the inter-tidal zone. The Beach Medlar tree/ shrub is another plant which also only occurs at Black Rock in South Africa.
Once you are sufficiently beached out we take you slightly inland by vehicle to our third overnight venue of Hlabasimhlope Monument and Heritage site. This memorable overnight stay is the brain child of Eugene Tembe who is a Community leader and resident of KwaMpukane Community and is part of the Royal Tembe clan.
His warm hospitality will make you feel right at home in this Zulu-cool residence, rooms are twin-shared as are the ablutions with open air showers looking out over the rolling hills. There is a cash bar with wood-fired oven pizzas and shisa-nyama and accompanying sides will fill your belly before a good evenings rest.
DAY 4: BLACK ROCK - MABIBI
DISTANCE: 13 KM
An early start with a light breakfast we begin the walk at Lala Nek through the coastal forest at Manzengwenya aka Island Rock. We follow the coastal twee-spoor track south through dense coastal bush for 6km with plenty of endemic birds, Vervet Monkeys and Red Duiker along the way.
We emerge out of the forest and onto the beach at Island Rock and head down the beach for the last 7km until we reach the Mabibi community campsite nestled in the coastal forest on the beach fringe.
Tonight, on your last evening with us as your hosts, we whisk you away to South Africas largest fresh water Lake Sibaya for unforgettable sundowners on us, as a thank you for allowing us to host you and guide you through what we believe to be one of the most underrated and beautiful parts of South Africa.
We return to either Mabibi Campsite, or the Sodwana Bay Campsite inside the park for an early dinner of elegant surprises freshly prepared by Damien.
If your legs still have it in them, you have one last opportunity to roam the beaches after dark looking for nesting and/or hatching turtles with a local accredited guides from the area.
DAY 5: MABIBI - SODWANA BAY
DISTANCE: 14 SEA MILES
No trip to Thonga land would be complete without the ultimate sea safari. Sodwana Bay has 30% more fish bio-diversity than the entire Caribbean Sea combined. The deep canyons offshore are home to the Coelacanth and these same canyons cause cold nutrient rich upwellings which feed the worlds southernmost Coral Reefs. If you dive already and would like to stay on to do a few dives after the trail we can arrange this.
After you wake and having eaten a light breakfast, we will depart with a boat from Sodwana Bay. From here we launch through the surf to begin the unforgettable trip along the coast, running behind backline with the tall vegetated dunes standing sentry over the ancient coastline. Its a fantastic perspective from the sea to look back at the very coastline you have been exploring over the past few days, and water visibility on this stretch of coastline can sustain 30m for days on end, primarily due to the lack of rivers pouring into the ocean.
You can expect to see Bottlenose dolphins all year around, Humpback Whales on their annual migration, first heading north to calve around June before returning with the youngsters around September, Whale Sharks are possible to see all year around although uncommon these days & gestating Ragged tooth sharks are around in Summer. The boat will drop you to snorkel at Breaking waters at 9 Mile reef where the reef shallows up to just a few meters below the surface, Hawksbill turtles, Potato Bass, Moorish Idols & Giant Trevally all abound here and you’ll lay your eyes on just a few of the 1300 species of fish that call the Thongaland coast their home.
We drop you on the Sodwana beach at 11-ish and will get you back to your vehicle. After a quick shower, embraces from new that friends we shared an incredible journey with, we embark on our respective sojourns home.
Who can show you a dolphin or whale in the morning, a hippo in the afternoon and a laying turtle in the evening?
At Thonga Trails, we can ...
Special interests? Check out our different options or tell us your idea!
We set you off on the classic Thonga trail, however you are accompanied by a local guide along with a birding specialist. We appreciate you have to move slower so instead of covering the entire 55km of trails we slow it down to send more time searching for those feathered friends. Possible birds include the Green Coucal, Woodwards Batis, Green Twinspot, Rosy throated Longclaw, Narina Trogon, Starred Robin, Livingston's Turaco, Ospreys, Palm Nut Vultures, Lesser Flamingos & African Broadbill.
For the salty surfer. We know what you need... 4 Nights accommodation, all meals, snack packs & beers. We also include the ultimate boat surfari on the way home dropping you o your peak of choice! No-one knows this coast like we do. There are 4 secret points that cook on different swells not to mention the beach breaks in between, oh yeah, and its all to yourself.
We are surfers, we know know that we want to it to be flexible, so contact us and we will tailor make your trip.
All the small things
With all the benefits of the Classic Trail but we find a naturalist that suits your groups needs to add a wealth of experience and added value to your trip.
The best way is to contact us so we can find the right guide for your group.
Or simply just want to extend your stay on our coastline and spend some time in Sodwana Bay? We can definitely help you out with that!